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The Braided Brothers

by Hunter Howe

The first drink of coffee is always the scariest. People never know what to expect. They hesitate for a while, then close their eyes and take a sip. The cup is filled to the brim with mystery until it touches their lips.

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Delta Victor

by Eric Danache

54B Dragon soldier, not as big as a boulder, but with my 50 cal I shall cut you down to pebbles. Life is no longer rose petals, can’t seem to break off these shackles. Many men won vu-ku medals, now they live in the shadows, waiting for their turn for the gallows. Every time the wind blows at my six, I want to reach for my M4. Many times I’ve hit the floor, many men have heard the lion roar, but luckily we are carnivore and mre’s we want no more. We volunteered to serve our country, now we’re getting served arrest warrants.  We aren’t criminals, all we know is violence. All we know is survival. All we know is left, right, left, right, kill. See that blood spill. Push on over that hill. Here pop this pill. Lock and load, watch those bodies explode. You don’t want to mess with the young killer’s squad. We’ll send you real fast to the house of God. I got my saw gun, so you know I’m ready to have fun. You can try to hide from me, but on my Kevlar I got my NVG and I’m backed up by them boys of 11b. We sweated our pain out and cried out our blood. Until the day we fade away, we will always be part of a brotherhood. This one goes out to the brothers and sisters that never made it back, to the ones who are back in the physical, but overseas in the mental, to the ones trying to find their spiritual, to the families of the fallen, to the ones who stopped their grin, to the ones that everyday drink whiskey and gin, to the ones that have been through the thick and thin, to the ones that were once high speed, and now eating out of garbage bins. Never stop, push forward, you still got a purpose. Believe in the good Lord, have faith in him and know that he will always have your six. C-130’s, C-141’s, mass tac, stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door. Jump right out and count to four. Its death from above, so watch out below because we are going to tag your toe. You’re barely average son. We are the silent professionals and flow like a thirty round clip of 5.56. You are the enemy, so watch out because our divarty will land precisely and heavily on your locality and it’s your turn for group therapy. Leave you no chance to call incoming. Honestly we will leave you in pieces. To you it might seem like a rarity, but to us this is a melody. My family tree is military grown with the blood of tyranny. So now everything seems like a conspiracy. Shout out to all the Delta Victors in Cameron County, in the RGV, and every vet in all the countries on this planet. Many will never understand, but as we stand under our creator know that He will make it much better. Over and out.

Eric Tizoc Danache was born and raised in San Benito, Texas to immigrant parents. He carried on the family tradition from his father and oldest brother and enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school in 1997, where he was a 54b stationed with the 82nd Airborne Division. He completed his enlistment in early 2000. Eric has two daughters, and enjoys writing and art.

Stolen Dreams

by Ryan J. Barry

My trembling fingers grabbed hair and skin and held on tightly as glass rained down on my neck and shoulders. I prayed that the dirty linoleum floor would open and swallow me to provide shelter from the shards. When I looked up, smoke and dust filled the room. The last partygoers ran out through the only door, about twenty yards away. A woman knocked over a candle as she ran out, and an inferno ignited instantly. Panic consumed me. Everything I could see was melting.

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An Interview with Benjamin Busch

(Reprinted from O-Dark-Thirty/The Review Volume 5, No. 4—Summer 2017.)

Benjamin Busch is an award-winning writer, actor, photographer, film director, former United States Marine Corps officer who served two tours of combat duty in Iraq, and the author of Dust to Dust: A Memoir (Ecco, 2013).

He played Officer Anthony Colicchio on the HBO series The Wire, his writing has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Harper’s, and he has been a guest commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered. A native of New York, he now lives on a farm in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. Nonfiction Editor Dario DiBattista, also a former Marine, spoke with Busch for O-Dark-Thirty.

O-Dark-Thirty: I know this is painfully vague, but what does “identity” mean to you? How does it relate directly to writing and acting?

Benjamin Busch: There are both internal senses and external applications of identity. The latter is how we relate to other people, a tribal identity, and we are either born into it, adopt it, feel we’ve earned membership in it, or had it forced on us. We add our professions and religions, our nations and race, our sex and sexuality. I can always tell when an identity hasn’t been given much thought, lives on the surface, can’t defend itself. Writers and actors make decisions about who their characters are and how much their identity is influential. They have to find ways inside, past civilization’s dense fabric of labels, to what a character can’t deny under scrutiny.

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The Consent of the Governed?

by Delbert R. Gardner

Americans are so steeped in the principle of democracy that they will seldom forget it even as members of the armed forces in wartime.  I saw a serio-comic demonstration of this fact during World War II when I was an aircraft armament specialist with an Eighth Air Force bomber squadron.

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Hold All Things in Heart Forever True

by Chuck Priestley

Hold all things in heart forever true,
Love should never taste the draught of woe;
Mothers, do not mourn a son before his due.

Soldier, do you weep for those you slew?
Remember, they had mothers, too, so
Hold all things in heart forever true.

Door Gunner, hang tough and protect the crew
Over the paddies that rice and Viet Cong grow,
Mothers, do not mourn a son before his due.

House Mouse, as you shine his boots and shoes
Do you fear what the future may show?
Hold all things in heart forever true.

Letters to the home front contain no clues,
Five Hueys shot down in combat by the foe,
Mothers, do not mourn a son before his due.

Caskets draped in red, white, and blue,
Taps sounds out mournfully slow.
Hold all things forever true.
Mothers, do not mourn a son before his due.

John Charles (Chuck) Priestley II (YNCS, USN Ret.) was born and resides in South Charleston, West Virginia where he is an avid reader, Oriental food aficionado, oenophile, gardener, and handyman constantly renovating his “money pit” residence. He began writing poetry as off-duty entertainment while stationed on Hawaii. He has experimented in various forms of both rhymed and prose poetry, drawn from 24 years experience in the U.S. Navy and associated travels. He is published in Eastlit and Pennsylvania Review. Nature, Asian culture, and human relationships are recurring themes for his poetry. He holds a Master of Arts in English from Marshall University.

The Spider

by Jim Barrett

I had an opportunity today. I sat in my chair—trying to work out a plot problem when I pushed away from my howling computer (yeah—it howls, even snarls, when I can’t figure shit out) and leaned back in my chair. I looked skyward, really, ceilingward (if that’s a word) at the light above my head. It was then that I noticed a life and death struggle. There was a spider caught in the bowl of the light. I saw it clearly—a black eight-legged outline against the forty watt bulb that illuminated it. I was transfixed.

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The Letters

by Alicia DeFonzo

“You know, your grandmother only wrote me once during the war?” he says, sipping his scotch, staring out at the Chesapeake Bay which he can no longer see. I look at him with her eyes. It was the first I heard of it. He wouldn’t lie to me, but I wonder how this could be true.

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Know Thy Enemy

by Jonathan Tennis

Throughout the ages,
We have labeled them
Enemy
To make us feel they are different
To make us feel they are not the same
To make us feel nothing about them
To make us feel nothing about their cause
But they are the same
They are mothers and fathers
Brothers and sisters
Sons and daughters
Wives and husbands
We are the same
But they have to die
Because we labeled them enemy.
Sun Tzu said
Know thy enemy
Know thyself.
I don’t know how to tell the difference.
Jonathan Tennis served an enlistment in the United States Army, with a deployment to Iraq in support of OIF. He is a graduate of Eckerd College (BA) and Norwich University (MSIA), resides in Tampa, Florida where he enjoys writing, reading, year-round sunshine, traveling, and biking. 

Cycle of Violence

by Seabass

June 2004

Husaybah, al-Anbar Province, Iraq

Four of my Marine Force Recon teammates lay spread-eagle in deep sleep on the dusty concrete floor beside me.  As they recovered from physical and emotional exhaustion, Brian and I stood watch, scanning the city from the blasted-out windows of the building’s top floor.  Before dawn, our team had clandestinely occupied the abandoned Saddam-era Iraqi government office, known to us as the “Crack House.”  Miraculously, we had remained unseen from the vigilant civilians and combatants by low-crawling in through a weed- and shit-filled ditch which ran next to our new hide site.  Like hunters eager to kill a trophy buck, we searched the alleyways below with high-powered optics, hoping to catch our prey off-guard as the sun rose.

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